Las Vegas Hot Air Balloon
During my recent visit to Las Vegas, I wanted to do something different. I’ve been to Vegas before (for my 21st birthday back in 2011) and I gambled way too much, drank way too much, and saw several shows – typical Vegas weekend, eh? This time, while I still wanted to gamble and see shows, I wanted to get away from the Strip and experience Sin City from a different point of view. From about 4,600 feet high to be exact, in a wheelchair accessible Las Vegas hot air balloon!
The ballooning adventure started at 3:00 AM when my mom and I had to wake up to start getting ready for the ride. We were supposed to be at the ballooning field at 5:45 AM so that meant that we needed to be leaving our hotel on the strip by 5:00 AM, as the field is about 30 minutes away. Wheelchair accessible taxis are easy to find in Las Vegas and since we stayed at Planet Hollywood Resort, there was always an accessible taxi in the queue. It never took more than a few minutes to get a wheelchair taxi, so don’t worry about booking a taxi to take you to the ballooning field if you’re staying on the strip. If you do want to play it safe and prefer to reserve an accessible taxi however, call Desert Cab (702-386-9102). I used them several times during my stay and they were always quick to arrive. The 3:00 AM wake up was a lot earlier than I’m used to getting up, but it didn’t even phase me because I was so excited to complete this bucket list item. I’ve seen videos and photos for years of this accessible Las Vegas hot air balloon and it was now finally my turn to experience it first-hand.
After a 45 minute drive (our taxi driver got lost and didn’t speak English, which made it difficult for us to tell him where to go) we arrived at the field. The crew was already setting up the Las Vegas hot air balloon and we met Kevin and Vickie, who own Love Is In The Air Ballooning. They were incredibly kind, as was the rest of the crew, and Kevin shared with us that this was considered an extreme sport so we would need to sign liability waivers. I’ll be honest – for a quick second, this made me nervous, but Captain Kevin Cloney has over 1,700 hours of flying experience and is accident free so I told myself that there was no need to worry.
I really enjoyed watching the crew set the balloon up. It turns out that it’s quite a process to actually get the Las Vegas hot air balloon up in the air. Since they are experts, it didn’t take them too long to set it up and it was soon time for me to board.
Love Is In The Air Ballooning is one of only a few companies in the world that has a fully wheelchair accessible balloon. One side of the basket can fold down to become a ramp. I was able to roll right into the basket and the crew strapped in my powered wheelchair with tie-downs. They also put a harness over my chest and secured it to the basket, so there was certainly no chance of falling out of the basket during our ride. What is perhaps most unique about this balloon though, is the fact that wheelchair users have full viewing capability. The polycarbonate ramp is clear, so when it folds up to act as one wall of the basket, I was able to see out of that side or another clear side that was directly in front of me. Many other “wheelchair accessible” ballooning companies have the entry ramp, but no clear walls on the basket, which would make it impossible for a wheelchair user to actually see anything down below when flying.
After getting securely in the basket, we were ready for liftoff. We waved goodbye to the crew and up we went. The ride was incredibly smooth, as the balloon goes with the wind. Before doing this, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I imagined that it would be a little bumpy, kind of like an airplane. But it was nothing like that. Even my mom, who usually has motion sickness during flights or cruises, thought that the ride was smooth. We could hardly even tell that we were moving.
Once we got up in the air, the views were unbelievable! I had previously only seen Las Vegas from the strip, so this really gave me a new appreciation for the city. We could see the Las Vegas strip in the distance on one side and the beautiful mountains on the other side. Vickie and Kevin made sure to point out where interesting sights were as well. They even joked at one point that whenever they’re in need of new inspiration for their backyard, they just go ballooning over everyone’s houses and yards to get ideas.
We were in the air for about an hour and a half, but eventually we had to land. I really did not want this adventure to end because it was one of my favorite experiences ever. This was completely unlike anything that I have done before and it surpassed my expectations in every possible way. I can understand why people fall in love with ballooning and do it over and over again.
Landing was an adventure in itself. Since the balloon goes wherever the wind takes it, you can’t really just choose any landing spot that you desire. We ended up landing in a rocky field, next to a shopping plaza. The crew met us there and helped us have a smooth landing by holding the basket when we touched the ground. It was not a rough landing at all, but it was a little bumpy. Nothing that we couldn’t handle though!
After our successful flight and landing, Kevin and Vickie set up a nice breakfast spread for us. There was fruit, blueberry scones, and even some chocolate brownies. We all had a champagne toast as well, as is tradition when ballooning. While we were eating, Kevin shared with us the history of ballooning by telling the Captain’s Story. It was very entertaining and he told it with enthusiasm. It’s easy to see his passion for the sport of ballooning. We then received our flight certificates to commemorate our first time ballooning and called an accessible taxi to pick us up. The taxi was there within 15 minutes and back to our hotel we went.
This entire Las Vegas hot air balloon experience showed me that there is plenty of adventure to be had as a wheelchair user. Before doing this, I never knew if ballooning would be possible for me, but I am so happy that it was. Who knows what other incredible opportunities are out there in the world? Maybe I’ll try ziplining or skydiving next time. The world is full of possibilities and I’ll never forget my time in the sky with Love Is In The Air Ballooning.
To see my Las Vegas hot air balloon experience in action, check out this short video that I made –
*A Note from Curb Free with Cory Lee: This post includes affiliate links. When you click on a link, I may receive a small compensation, which will help this blog grow into a better resource for disabled travelers.